Citing concerns about the potential spread of the COVID-19 coronavirus, Reed Exhibitions has canceled this year's London Book Fair (LBF). The the event was scheduled to start next week.
While large numbers of attendees from abroad had canceled, yesterday Reed Exhibitions had said the show would proceed. The turning point seems to have come when major U.K. divisions of the large international publishers decided not to send their local staffs to the fair. Indeed, the news of the cancellation came less than an hour after HarperCollins became the latest publisher to pull its U.K. employees from the event. Penguin Random House, Hachette LIvre and Pan Macmillan all withdrew from LBF yesterday.
Below is the full text of the statement, released by the fair's public relations team:
"Reed Exhibitions has today announced that The London Book Fair 2020, scheduled to take place at Olympia, London, from 10 to 12 March will be cancelled following the escalation of COVID-19 Coronavirus in Europe.
"The effects, actual and projected, of Coronavirus are becoming evident across all aspects of our lives here in the UK and across the world, with many of our participants facing travel restrictions. We have been following UK government guidelines and working with the rolling advice from the public health authorities and other organisations, and so it is with reluctance that we have taken the decision not to go ahead with this year’s event.
"We recognise that business has to continue. With this in mind, we will of course support and collaborate with exhibitors and visitors to keep our world moving during this difficult period. We thank all those from the UK and a multitude of other countries who have prepared over the last year to deliver what promised to be a wonderful book fair showcasing, as ever, the exciting best of the global book industry. The London Book Fair will return, better than ever, in 2021."
Jacks Thomas, director of the London Book Fair, released a statement shortly thereafter. It reads: "Planning for each London Book Fair starts as the door closes on the previous edition and, collaborating with our partners and participants, a great deal of thought and work goes into each event; cancelling any event is a decision that is never taken lightly and LBF was no exception. The publishing and book community is networked and in touch but face-to-face gatherings remain vital to doing business and building relationships – we therefore look forward eagerly to the 2021 edition of The London Book Fair that is our 50th birthday. Covid-19 has taken many of us into previously uncharted waters and we are grateful for the huge support and understanding the international publishing and book community has shown in this difficult and fast-moving situation.”
The decision to cancel the fair will be well received by American publishers and particularly agents, who were becoming frustrated about Reed's decision to go ahead and offering no refunds.
The question of whether publishers and others will be refunded fees or otherwise compensated has yet to be addressed.
Editor's Note: A version of this story appeared in BookBrunch.